I grew up as an air force brat, so moving around the country was a feature of my younger days. I was born in San Antonio and also lived in Abilene, Big Spring, and Waco in Texas, Tampa Florida, Pemberton New Jersey, Montgomery Alabama, and Merced and Novato in California while growing up. My dad was a flight instructor and taught me to fly when I was in high school, so I grew up with an affinity for airplanes and aviation.
I earned B.S. and Master of Engineering degrees in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M University in the early 1980’s, and as an undergraduate worked at the Low-Speed Wind Tunnel helping to design wind tunnel models and conduct tests. Coincidentally, Steve Karman, now a staff specialist at Pointwise, was an aerospace engineering undergraduate at A&M at the same time, and that is where we first met.
After completing the master’s degree, I started my aerospace career as a systems engineer on the OH-58D KIOWA program at Bell Helicopter, working on the mast-mounted sight (the stuff inside that ball above the rotor). However, I really wanted to work on aerodynamics, so I began taking classes at night at the University of Texas at Arlington and eventually went back to graduate school there full time to compete a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering specializing in CFD. While there I developed a space-marching Euler code, which nowadays is a real oddity, but in the 1980’s was an efficient way to solve supersonic flows.
After graduation, I joined the CFD group at General Dynamics Fort Worth division and worked on the X-30 National Aerospace Plane project. If you have read previous This Is How I Mesh articles you’ll know that is also where I met fellow current Pointwise employees John Chawner, John Steinbrenner, Chris Fouts, Erick Gantt, Pat Baker, and Mike Remotigue. The X-30 project was exciting to work on because it was pushing cutting edge technologies like CFD to help design a single-stage-to-orbit reusable vehicle. There were tremendous challenges in predicting supersonic combustion in the scramjet engines and boundary layer transition on the surface of the vehicle, both of which have significant effects on vehicle performance. I was working with a team developing and applying CFD for the project and spent most of my time developing a parabolized Navier-Stokes solver, Penguin. It had to account for transition, non-ideal gas equation of state, combustion, boundary layer transition, and bow shock fitting in the flow solution and it had to generate its own grid as it marched downstream. Quite a challenge, but it was a rewarding project to work on.
In the early 1990’s the U.S. defense budget was declining and the X-30 project budget was as well, so in 1992 I moved on to work at Fluent, Inc. in New Hampshire. Now Fluent is part of ANSYS, but back then they were an independent company, and I started out as product manager for RAMPANT, their first unstructured CFD code, bits of which I think still exist in Fluent to this day. Later I was manager of their aerospace, automotive, and turbomachinery industry team.
In January 1995, just after Pointwise, Inc. was formed, I ran into John Chawner at the AIAA Aerospace Sciences meeting in Reno. He was representing Pointwise, Inc. and demonstrating Gridgen. I remember thinking he and John Steinbrenner were pretty bold to try to build a company around nothing but meshing. We had several discussions over the next few months because they were looking for someone with sales and marketing experience, and I was interested in becoming a partner in a startup business. I joined them in October 1995 to handle sales, marketing and support, and that is pretty much what I have been doing for the last 20 years.
- Location: Fort Worth, TX
- Current position: Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing
- Current computer: Lenovo W520, Intel Core i7-270QM, 2.40GHz, 16GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro 2000M, Windows 7.
- One word that best describes how you work: (Think pack mule, not thoroughbred.)
What software or tools do you use every day?
When I am in the office, Microsoft Outlook for email and scheduling, Sage CRM for keeping track of customer data, Quickbooks for financial and sales information, Microsoft Word for writing and editing, and Pidgin for instant messaging. When I am traveling, it is iPhone Mail and Calendars for email and scheduling, Messages for texting, Google Maps for finding my way around, and Yelp for figuring out where to eat.
What does your workspace look like?
Probably the most unusual aspect of my workspace is that I have a laptop and don’t use a mouse, even when running Pointwise. In the old days, I generated a lot of grids while riding on airplanes and there isn’t room for a mouse next to a laptop on the tray table, so I trained myself to use the trackpad for 3D display manipulations. It takes a lot of fingers sometimes, but it’s not too hard once you get used to it.
What are you currently working on?
Like most everyone at Pointwise, I’m somewhat involved in our upcoming Pointwise release. It is a major step forward that will allow people to quickly generate high-quality mixed element grids with tetrahedra, prisms, pyramids, and hexahedra all in the same block. We are in the documentation update and quality assurance phase of the release process, so there is still a lot of work to be done. Also, we are switching to a new license manager for this release, which will be easier to install and more stable, but we are working through all our licensing processes to make sure the changeover is as seamless as possible.
What would you say is your meshing specialty?
I don’t really have a meshing specialty except for having been around for a long time, so I can remember why things were implemented a certain way and remember obscure techniques for making grids that the newer folks have not been exposed to yet.
Any tips for our users?
Yes, please call or email us whenever you have a question. Our support staff likes to help people solve problems, and they are good at it. Your license or maintenance fee includes free technical support, so please take advantage of it. We hate to hear that someone has been having trouble with something for days, when we can help them out right away.
What project are you most proud of and why?
I don’t know if you call it a project, but I get a lot of satisfaction from having contributed to the success of Pointwise, Inc. over the years. We are not a huge company, but I think we develop high-quality products, support them with a professional, yet personal, approach, and treat customers and employees with a great deal of respect.
What CFD solver and postprocessor do you use most often?
I have dabbled with OpenFOAM, Caelus, and SU2 the last few years, but if I really need to check out a grid in a flow solver I still fall back on ANSYS Fluent which is the last CFD code I spent any significant time with.
Are you reading any interesting technical papers we should know about?
OK, this is highly self-serving, but I think SAE Paper 2016-01-1389, Meshing Considerations for Automotive Shape Design Optimization by Travis Carrigan and Claudio Pita from Pointwise and Mark Landon from Optimal Solutions is very good. It will be presented at the SAE 2016 World Congress in April in Detroit, and it shows very nicely how our T-Rex meshing technique quickly builds high-quality meshes on realistic geometries. In this case, the high-quality is crucial to making a reliable mesh morphing process for shape optimization.
Do you plan on attending any conferences or workshops this year?
I think this may be the first time in over 25 years when I will not attend a technical society conference or workshop. Of course, I will be at the 2016 Pointwise User Group Meeting in Fort Worth this September and there will be some good technical content there. (Hint: We are accepting abstracts until July 1st.) I’ll also attend the VINAS User Conference in Tokyo in October. VINAS is our distributor in Japan, and we are celebrating 20 years of doing business together this year.
What do you do when you’re not generating meshes?
I spend a lot of time running, which I don’t really like too much, but I have to do it because I like to cook and eat so much. I also like to fly. I belong to a local flying club and enjoy flying on weekend trips or just to buzz around in circles in the sky. Most summers, I’ll fly up to Oshkosh, Wisconsin and camp next to the airplane for a week with other guys from the flying club for the big EAA Airventure airshow.
What is some of the best CFD advice you’ve ever received?
Sanity check your results with some basic calculations. Does the mass flow going out match the mass flow coming in? Is the total pressure above freestream anywhere? It’s easy to assume everything is right when you get a solution, but it is too easy to make an input error and not notice.
If you had to pick a place to have dinner, where would you go?
Del Frisco’s is my favorite for a special meal. Can’t beat the steaks there. My favorite casual place is La Playa Maya. As you can guess from the name, they serve quite a few Mexican seafood dishes. The Vuelve a la Vida seafood cocktail makes a good meal all by itself.